10 Best Anti Inflammatory Foods

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Why Anti Inflammatory Diet?

Inflammation is a tool your body uses to tell you, “Hey! Something isn’t quite right here.” Acute inflammation, like swelling around a cut on your finger, helps to fight more pathogens from entering the wound. So, a little inflammation is a good thing. Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is long term and has been linked to many things, from acne to neurological disorders to athletic injuries. Many factors can cause inflammation, including sugar, stress, and saturated fats, among others . One of the easiest and most natural ways to fight inflammation is through your diet. By including the foods listed below as regular components of your diet, you can help ward off inflammation in some very yummy ways.

Which foods reduce inflammation?

Fatty Fish
  • Fatty Fish
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Berries and Cherries
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  • Phytonutrients: Anthocyanins
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Avocado
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  • Contains Persenone A
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10 Best Anti-Inflammatory Foods

 

1. Fatty Fish

1. Fatty Fish
Oily fish, like salmon, tuna, and trout, are loaded with omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids help to fight inflammation by increasing production of eicosapentaenoic acidin the body, which helps battle not only general inflammation, but also inflammation related to diseases like arthritis, IBD, and cardiovascular disease.
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Nutritional Content:
One 3-ounce serving of salmon has 175 calories, 10 grams of fat, 0 carbs, 0 sugar, and 19 grams of protein.

Taste and Practicality:
Fish is one of those foods you either love or hate. If you enjoy fish like salmon and tuna, you can easily reap the anti-inflammatory benefits of their fatty acids by making these a regular part of your diet. If you aren’t so sure you like fish, experiment with a few different varieties and see if any tickle your taste buds. Another option is to take fish oil supplements, as only 1/5 of a tsp. of fish oil is needed to reap the benefits.

Value:
Seafood of any variety, including fatty fish, can be a bit pricey. Try buying fish when it is on sale or at a bulk retailer like Costco or Sam’s Club.
Pros
  • High omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid content
  • Lean protein
Cons
  • Some people may not like fish
  • Can be expensive

2. Berries and Cherries

2. Berries and Cherries
Berries have plentiful amounts of phytonutrients known as anthocyanins. Strawberries, raspberries, and cherries are especially high in both anthocyanins 1 and 2, which pack a double punch against inflammation.
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Nutritional Content:
One cup of fresh strawberries has 49 calories, 0 fat, 12 grams of carbs, 7 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.

Taste and Practicality:
Berries are known for their sweetness and can be eaten plain, with your favorite yogurt, or even in a salad. Their versatility is endless. Cherries come in different varieties, and some are tarter than others.

Value:
Berries like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are regulars in the produce department. Buy them in season to save a little money. Cherries can be a little harder to come by and are usually a little more expensive.
Pros
  • Easy to find
  • Versatile
  • Common berries are affordable
Cons
  • Cherries can be more expensive

3. Avocado

3. Avocado
Avocado is rife with persenone A, which fights the inflammation-causing chemicals inducible nitric oxide synthase and cyclooxygenase. Studies have also found that avocados can help fight inflammation related to cancer.
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Nutritional Content:
A 3.5 ounce serving of avocado has 120 calories, 10 grams of fat, 8 grams of carbs, 2 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.

Taste and Practicality:
Avocados are found in the majority of grocery stores, are growing in popularity, and are a highly versatile fruit. They can be eaten plain, as a spread, on a salad, or even as a base for desserts, like pudding. They can take a little while to ripen if you purchase them while they are rock hard.

Value:
Avocados are a fairly inexpensive fruit, especially since a little avocado goes a long way
Pros
  • Versatile
  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to find
Cons
  • Can take time to ripen

4. Hemp Seeds

4. Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds contain all 20 amino acids. The high ratio of essential fatty acids in hemp seeds is what makes them such a strong anti-inflammatory food. Studies have found that hemp seeds are especially effective in fighting symptoms of pain and inflammation in people with both muscular and skeletal inflammation.
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Nutritional Content:
A ½ ounce serving of hemp seeds has 87 calories, 7 grams of fat, 1 gram of carbs, 0 grams of sugar, and 6 grams of protein.

Taste and Practicality:
Hemp seeds can be found in your grocer’s health food section or at a health foods specialty store. They can be sprinkled onto your favorite yogurt or salad, mixed into a granola bar or cookie recipe, or can be ground into a versatile flour. They give your foods a little crunch (if eaten whole) and have a taste similar to a sunflower seed.

Value:
Hemp seeds are more expensive than sunflower seeds, but are not un-affordable.
Pros
  • Easy to use
  • Contain all 20 amino acids
Cons
  • May be difficult to find

5. Broccoli

5. Broccoli
Broccoli is high in phytonutrients, especially sulforaphane. Not only does sulforaphane have anti-inflammatory properties, it also fights carcinogens.
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Nutritional Content:
One cup of raw broccoli has 31 calories, 0 fat, 6 grams of carbs, 2 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.

Taste and Practicality:
Broccoli is commonly found in your local grocer’s produce department and can easily be grown at home. It can be eaten raw or cooked, with most people pairing it with hummus, cheese, or another topping of the like.

Value:
Broccoli is inexpensive and its versatility really gives it a bang for your buck.
Pros
  • Commonly found
  • Versatile
Cons
  • Can be dry when eaten raw

6. Olive Oil

6. Olive Oil
Olive oil packs a double punch against inflammation because it is rich in both polyphenols and monosaturated fats. Polyphenols help protect your cardiovascular system from inflammation, while monosaturated fats provide more overall protection from inflammation.
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Nutritional Content:
One tablespoon of olive oil has 119 calories, 14 grams of fat, and zero carbs, sugar, or protein.

Taste and Practicality:
Olive oil is found everywhere and in quite a few varieties. It can be used for cooking, as a base for salad dressing or sauces, and is a great replacement for butter or other oils with higher amounts of saturated fats because it has a light taste.

Value:
The cost of olive oil depends on the kind you buy. If this is a product you use frequently, consider buying it in bulk quantities to save money and make life more convenient.
Pros
  • Commonly found
  • Light taste
Cons
  • Some varieties are pricey

7. Kale

7. Kale
Kale is super trendy right now, and for good reason. Kale is incredibly rich in sulfur, which helps detox your liver in two stages. This allows your body to increase production of phase II enxymes which break down toxins and help fight inflammation.
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Nutritional Content:
One cup of chopped, raw kale has 33 calories, 0 grams of fat, 7 grams of carbs, 0 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.

Taste and Practicality:
Kale is a close relative to arugula, broccoli, and brussel sprouts, so the taste is similar but with a little bitterness thrown in the mix. Kale is great as a base for salads, served as a side dish, or blended into a smoothie, and is readily available at your grocery store.

Value:
Kale costs about what other leafy greens costs.
Pros
  • Versatile
  • Inexpensive
Cons
  • Can have a bitter taste

8. Walnuts

8. Walnuts
Walnuts contain over 10 antioxidant phytonutrients, polyphenols, and the greatest concentration of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids. This triple threat works together to combat inflammation.
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Nutritional Content:
One ounce of chopped walnuts has 173 calories, 17 grams of fat, 3 grams of carbs, 0 grams of sugar, and 7 grams of protein.

Taste and Practicality:
Walnuts are a hearty, meaty nut that is available at grocery stores and farmers markets alike. Their flavor is mellow, and make a great addition to yogurt, baked goods, as a salad topping, or as a protein boost in side dishes like wild rice.

Value:
Like other nuts, they can be a little pricey, and the costs can fluctuate depending on the season.
Pros
  • Versatile
  • Hearty and filling
Cons
  • Potential allergen for some folks
  • Can be expensive at times

9. Sweet potatoes

9. Sweet potatoes
The high concentration of vitamin C, vitamin E, alpha-carotene and beta-carotene make inflammation no match for sweet potatoes. They are also awesome for your heart, skin, and immune system.
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Nutritional Content:
One 4.5 ounce raw sweet potato has 114 calories, 0 grams of fat, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.

Taste and Practicality:
Sweet potatoes are, well, sweet! Readily available at your local grocer, sweet potatoes can be a meal on their own, served as a side, or used to add a pop of flavor and color to a salad or main dish. Remember that they are potatoes, and sometimes can take a while to prepare.

Value:
Sweet potatoes are fairly inexpensive, like other potatoes.
Pros
  • Versatile
  • Inexpensive
Cons
  • Preparation can take some time

10. Tea

10. Tea
Green, white, and black teas don't just give you a caffeine boost, but they are also chock full of catechins. This polyphenol is found in the Camellia plant, the leaves of which are used to make tea, and is rich in anti-oxidants, which help fight inflammation.
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Nutritional Content:
Eight ounces of brewed black tea has 2 calories, and zero fat, carbs, sugars, or protein.

Taste and Practicality:
Everyone has their own tea preference, so sip on your favorite and reap the anti-inflammatory benefits. You can get tea anywhere, whether you make it at home or grab it on-the-go. Try making a smoothie with tea, or replacing one of the (many) cups of coffee your drink in the morning with a cup of tea.

Value:
The cost of tea will vary depending on the brand or café from which you purchase it.
Pros
  • Widely available
  • Many different varieties
Cons
  • Cost varies

Criteria We Used to Find The Best Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Inflammation isn’t always a bad thing. It can be a physical sign that lets us know something in our bodies is off and needs attention, or what we or doing or exposing ourselves to needs to be adjusted. Especially for us runners, acute inflammation will help our blisters, scrapes, and other “battle wounds” heal while keeping them free of harmful infections. It’s when these inflammations become prolonged that we should start to be concerned. The easiest way for you to make sure chronic inflammation isn’t in your future is simply by incorporating more of the foods on this list into your regular diet. Below are the metrics we used to measure which foods made the cut.

1. Nutritional Content

As athletes, we care about our overall health and wellness, and many of us pay special attention to how our diets can effect (both positively and negatively) our training. These days, a lot of runners are experimenting with a variety of diet approaches, to see what gives them the most energy, aids in recovery, and just overall works best for them. This is true especially for athletes who are combatting acute inflammation in some form. Luckily, the foods on this list can be incorporated easily into a many types of nutritional plans, so reducing inflammation can be something even runners and athletes with very particular diets can do.

Athletes also need sufficient calorie intake to sustain their workouts and everyday lives, but they also have to be mindful of our portions and intake. After all, “you can’t outrun a bad diet!” Therefore, the foods on this list are nutritionally versatile and provide a lot of different macro nutrients and micro nutrients, but are not so calorically dense that couldn’t be easily fit into your everyday lifestyle, or that they would have to be saved for a “cheat meal.” (In fact, nothing on this list is over 300 calories for the standard, suggested serving size!)

Nutritionally versatile foods are those foods that are not only a good source of one singular micro or macro nutrient, but have multiple nutritional benefits.  The foods on this list are nutritionally versatile, in that they not only aid in decreasing inflammation, but might be a good source of carbohydrates, fats, and/or proteins, and chock full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Take walnuts for an example- they, like many other types of tree nuts, are excellent sources of “good fats” like omega 3’s, polyunsaturated fats, and monounsaturated fats. However, they also provide a hefty amount of protein and contain fiber, and lots of B and E vitamins. While nutritionally versatile, walnuts do err on the side of being calorie dense, as 30 grams (1 ounce) have 190 calories. But that’s okay! Like we said before, and is true with any food: just be mindful of your portions and serving sizes.

2. Taste

While nutrition is important, you certainly don’t want to sacrifice taste for health. As athletes, we put ourselves through a lot. We face physical challenges and push our limits all the time. We are used to being uncomfortable, we know pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones leads to being better athletes. So just about the last thing we want after a seriously intense workout is a bad-tasting recovery meal! While some of the foods on this list may be considered more of an “acquired taste,” (i.e. not everyone is a fan of fish, and sometimes it just takes some time to develop an affinity and the tastebuds for certain foods) none of them are foods that really get a “bad rap” across the greater population (except for maybe kale, which many complain about being too bitter). Consider your personal preferences and if you tend to be a picky eater. (Likewise, if you plan to serve others these foods, you should consider their personal taste preferences, especially those of kids). Even if you ARE a picky eater and don’t have a very developed palette, a lot of the foods on our list can be manipulated with different preparation and cooking methods, and with the addition of various seasonings, oils, and butters, you can easily change the taste to better fit your preferences. Broccoli and sweet potatoes are a great example of this. Broccoli served alone, cold, and raw might not be the most appetizing food. But drizzled with olive oil, (also on this list!) sprinkled with a bit of salt, pepper, and some parmesan cheese, and then roasted in the oven, your bland broccoli becomes a side dish that everyone can enjoy! The same goes for sweet potatoes – just think about that delicious sweet potato casserole your grandmas serves every Christmas. Even if it’s not the holiday season, a little cinnamon, brown sugar, and a pat of butter goes a long way to doctor up a plain baked sweet potato!

3. Value

4. Practicality 

FAQ

What exactly is inflammation?

Inflammation is the response your body tissue produces when harmful stimuli are present, such as irritants, damaged cells, or pathogens. Inflammation is actually a protective response of the immune system and involves immune cells, red blood cells, and molecular mediators. Essentially, inflammation is your body’s way of trying to protect and repair itself.

Inflammation-what-exactly-is-inflammation-best-anti-inflammatory-foods
Wikimedia Commons | https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2213_Inflammatory_Process.jpg

What causes inflammation?

When your immune system detects that something is harming your body’s tissues, a wave of white blood cells are sent out through your blood stream to the affected area. The release of white blood cells and other chemicals increases the blood flow to the injured or infected area, and redness, warmth, and swelling often occur as a result.

Inflammation-What-causes-inflammation-best-anti-inflammatory-foods
Wikimedia Commons | https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wintertenen.jpg

Where does inflammation occur?

Inflammation can occur in any area of your body that has been injured or has become infected. Inflammation can be external, such as around a cut, or internal, like swelling around a knee injury.

Inflammation-Where-does-inflammation-occur-best-anti-inflammatory-foods
Wikimedia Commons | https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tickbite_Inflammation_2482a.jpg

How inflammation Affects the Body

Inflammation affects the body in both positive and negative ways. On the positive side, inflammation helps fight infection, provides you with a signal that something is wrong with your body, and is responsible for the “fight or flight” mentality that gets us through traumatic or dangerous situations. However, inflammation also has a negative side. It is linked to heart disease, increased cancer risk, and depression, and can be harmful to your stomach, gums, joints, lungs, bones, sleep patterns, and can make weight loss more difficult.

Inflammation-how-inflammation-affects-the-body-best-anti-inflammatory-foods
Wikimedia Commons | https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Blausen_0620_Lungs_NormalvsInflamedAirway.png

What do anti inflammatory foods do?

Anti inflammatory foods are packed with nutrients, like omega-3 fatty acids, that help your body fight inflammation from the inside out. Additionally, anti inflammatory diets are composed of fresh, unprocessed foods that balance healthy fats, carbohydrates, and protein so that you are eating an overall healthy diet.

inflammation-What-do-anti-inflammatory-foods-do-best-anti-inflammatory-foods

What foods cause inflammation?

  • Hydrogenated oils and trans fats
  • Fried Foods
  • Meat (especially red meat)
  • Sugar (the white, processed suagars)
  • Salt
  • Dairy
  • Food additives (preservatives and food coloring)
  • Wheat products and other gluten-containing grains
  • Alcohol

inflammation-What-foods-cause-inflammation-best-anti-inflammatory-foods

 


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Sources

  1. Unknown, Does Inflammation Harm Your Health, WebMD Women's Health Information,
  2. Unknown, 11 Incredible Benefits of Walnuts, Organic Foods Health Article,
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